Egypt: Resort town hides the 'real' Egyptian experience

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    A beachfront at Club Med in El Gouna, Egypt.
    Patrick Bernard/MCT/Newscom
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A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

EL GOUNA, EGYPT – It is a resort town by all definitions. Hotels line every street, catering to a foreign tourist base that has grown in the decade and a half since El Gouna’s first developments began to spring up. Egyptians make up a tiny percentage of the population, their modest homes hidden from view by stone walls.

Europeans come in droves to vacation here, to soak up the hot sun and “experience” Egypt. But many stay within the resort town, mingling with other tourists in upscale restaurants and watching “cultural” shows that do little to connect them to the country they are visiting.

The true Egypt, impoverished and full of diverse splendor, has been swept clean from the cobblestone roads and expensive cafes and hotels inside Gouna.

It’s not just the tourists who don’t get exposure to the “real” Egypt. Lars Keller is German and has worked in El Gouna for the past three years. He’s not a fan of the resort town lifestyle, which he says has given him little opportunity to interact with locals.

“It has really gotten to be too much, and I am ready to leave,” he says. “I never got to experience Egypt.”

With little vacation time available, Mr. Keller was only able to leave El Gouna on a handful of occasions. “It simply wasn’t enough to get any knowledge of the country I lived in for three years. And to think others come here and think they have been to Egypt.”

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